Dehydration and Migraines: What Your Doctor Didn’t Tell You

When you have chronic migraines, you hear over and over that you’re probably just dehydrated and need to drink more water. While that may be true in the beginning, after years of suffering, most of us drink lots of water and get migraines anyway. Still, dehydration and migraines are connected: The problem is that water alone does not resolve dehydration.

Your doctor probably didn’t tell you that staying properly hydrated has two components: water and electrolytes. You can drink a gallon of water every day and still be dehydrated if you are low on electrolytes. For many migraineurs, electrolytes are one of the pieces missing in the complex puzzle of migraines.

Electrolytes are minerals that dissolve in water to form electrically-charged particles called ions. Ions are chemically reactive and a necessary component in almost every metabolic process. When the body is low on electrolytes it cannot function properly.

Essential Electrolytes

Electrolytes include sodium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and calcium, along with phosphate and chlorine. Since electrolytes are water-soluble, they don’t stay in your body very long. They have to be consumed on a regular basis or your body will run out. If your diet is low in any one of these minerals, supplements are necessary to keep your body functioning properly.

Sodium is often considered detrimental to your health, but this is only true for a diet filled with convenience foods that are loaded with sodium. If you eat healthy with home-prepared meals including lots of fruits and vegetables, it is possible you are not getting enough sodium from your diet. Unless you are on a sodium-restricted diet for other health concerns or eat lots of convenience food, don’t be afraid to add a little salt to your meals.

Potassium works in conjunction with sodium in many metabolic processes, and is needed in larger amounts. Both sodium and potassium are lost when you sweat, creating the salty taste. If the weather is hot, if you are doing manual labor, or if you are on a sodium restricted diet, you will need to increase your potassium to prevent dehydration.

Magnesium has been found to be a key deficiency factor for many migraineurs. You will see numerous references to magnesium supplements when learning about natural remedies for migraine. Magnesium supplements are inexpensive and can be very effective for keeping you hydrated and preventing migraines.

Zinc deficiency can occur when you suffer from digestive issues, such as colitis, IBS, or celiac disease. Damage to your small intestine reduces your body’s ability to absorb zinc from food. Certain foods can actually steal zinc from your body. If you have digestive issues, zinc supplements are absolutely essential.

Calcium is stored in every bone of your body, so it is hard to understand that calcium deficiency could even occur, but it does. If you are lactose intolerant or forgo dairy products for any reason, it is possible that you have a calcium deficiency. Again, supplements are an easy solution for a surprisingly common problem.

Are You Dehydrated?

It is easy to tell if you are dehydrated from the color of your urine. When your urine is intensely yellow, you aren’t drinking enough water and are suffering from dehydration. If your urine is barely yellow at all, you are drinking more than enough water but you are lacking in electrolytes. In both cases you are dehydrated.

If you suffer chronic Migraines, you need to avoid dehydration at all costs. Keep track of your daily water intake. If you aren’t drinking enough water, try adding a small glass of water at the start of each meal. Eat more fruits and vegetables! Almost all produce contains water, potassium, sodium, and magnesium. Take mineral supplements if needed. If you are on a diuretic medication, you will need to put in extra effort to make sure you stay hydrated.

Dehydration is probably the most common and easily prevented migraine trigger. As with everything that triggers a migraine, balance is the key. Keeping your body in balance with proper hydration will help you prevent migraines. Staying hydrated means more than just drinking a lot of water.

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